New COVID-19 Online Videos Available
MBI has found some very helpful YouTube videos online that can assist you while dealing with the COVID-19 virus. The first, from the National Asphalt Pavement Association, can be viewed here. The second is a shorter “Best Practices” summary from Builders Association on how construction professionals can work to prevent spread of the virus. That video can be found here.
Has Construction Been Deemed Essential Workforce?
MBI has been fielding a number of questions related to whether construction as a profession, has been deemed “essential.”
The federal government on March 28, 2020 issued their “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce,” where 16 different sectors have been identified. Included in some of those 16 sectors are certain construction-related careers. However, there has been no federal shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order issued to date.
Many local officials have also been considering shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. The Attorney General of Iowa issued an opinion stating that the Governor retains the powers to declare and coordinate the response to a public health disaster. To date, Governor Reynolds has issued no shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Therefore, there has also been no classification of essential workforce in Iowa.
This is good news for our industry to remain working. However, MBI strongly encourages all members to follow strict CDC and Iowa Public Health guidelines when at work to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
CDC Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Ares of Significant Community-Based Transmission
Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations on cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, especially to prevent transmission from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. That information, along with a short video demonstration by the U.S. Surgeon General, can be seen here.
Iowa Workforce Development Outlines CARES Act Benefits and Implementation
Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) is outlining the benefits of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, which provides unemployment benefits for the self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, gig economy workers, those who have exhausted other unemployment insurance benefits, and those who may not have sufficient work history to qualify for a regular state claim.
The CARES Act also includes eligibility for those receiving unemployment insurance benefits in any amount to be paid an additional $600 weekly benefit. After receiving guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor, IWD has begun aligning resources and technology to create the necessary processes to be able to pay qualified individuals their benefits as quickly as possible, and we estimate this will occur within the next 10 days.
The CARES Act provides the following unemployment insurance benefit programs:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – The FPUC program provides individuals who are collecting regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Short Time Compensation (STC), Trade Readjustment Act (TRA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), and payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program, with an additional $600 per week. The first week a claimant can be compensated on this benefit is the week beginning March 29, 2020 and the last week is the week ending July 25, 2020. Our goal is to issue payments in the next ten days to those who are eligible. Please keep in mind that you cannot quit your job and continue to draw these benefits. If you refuse to return to work without a documented medical note consistent with the Families First Act, you will be disqualified from ALL benefits including the $600 payment. Additionally, if your employer receives a loan under the PayCheck Protection Act and places you back on the payroll, full time, you will no longer be eligible for unemployment or FPUC benefits.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – This program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees and gig economy workers, as well as to individuals working part-time, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or PEUC. A claimant can be compensated with this benefit beginning February 2, 2020, or the first week a claimant was unable to work as a result of COVID-19, whichever date is later. The last week this benefit is payable is the week ending December 26, 2020. Our goal is to issue payments in the next ten days to those who are eligible. This benefit also applies to anyone who has exhausted all unemployment insurance payment options at the state or federal level, including the PEUC program.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – The PEUC program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted regular unemployment benefits under state or federal law, or have no rights to regular unemployment benefits under state or federal law. The first week a claimant can be compensated on this benefit is the week beginning March 29, 2020 and the last payable week is the week ending December 26, 2020.
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – The PPC provides a loan to businesses with fewer than 500 employees to keep their workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration will forgive these loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the loan is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Employees of businesses that take advantage of the PPP who are recalled to work (or are being paid full-time pay and benefits) are not eligible for unemployment benefits, and if they have a current claim, they should update their claim appropriately to reflect the day they were no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. For more information on the PPP see: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp
Important note: None of the benefits described above, nor unemployment benefits of any kind, are available to employees who quit their job, refuse to return to work or refuse to receive full-time pay. Attempts to collect payments after quitting a job could be viewed as fraudulent and will be further investigated. The CARES Act specifically provides for serious consequences for fraudulent cases including fines, confinement and an inability to receive future unemployment benefits until all fraudulent claims and fines have been repaid.
IWD frequently updates its FAQs for employers and claimants regarding this information and it can be found at our website: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov. IWD will also be conducting webinars for claimants and employers in the upcoming week that will include information on these new CARES Act program benefits. All information on the dates and times of webinars will be posted to our website and social media.